Farmers and ranchers are no strangers to hard times.
Producers regularly experience fluctuating commodity prices, trade disruptions and extreme weather events that make their already challenging jobs even harder. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic disruptions have only compounded the situation, increasing farmers’ stress. But misconceptions about “toughness,” perceived stigma around seeking help, isolation and lack of mental health services in rural communities mean rural residents are often reluctant to discuss the hardships they face. And they may not know where or how to ask for help. Farmers need resources to help them manage their own stress and support other members of their community.
Farm Credit takes action
This is why Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union have joined together with Michigan State University Extension and University of Illinois Extension to create Rural Resilience, a free, private, online training course to help farmers, as well as their families and neighbors, cope with this mounting stress.
The curriculum teaches participants to understand the sources of stress, manage their own stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources. The course is free and accessible to the public.
Resources for the media:
- Download/listen to the audio from the press announcement
- Watch the video below
This free, online course available to the public builds on efforts that began in late 2019 in a press event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Farm Credit, AFBF, NFU and MSU Extension launched their partnership in December 2019. Watch the below video for highlights from the press conference, or listen to the archived audio, watch live footage and download photos from the event.
- Additional Efforts
Taking the partnership a step further, Farm Credit worked with MSU Extension to create a specialized version of the Rural Resilience course tailored to the specific needs of Farm Credit loan officers and other front-line staff. The training is designed to help Farm Credit employees support customers facing challenging situations, as well as notice and manage signs of stress in themselves.
This training builds on other Farm Credit efforts to support rural mental health. We partner with the AgriSafe Network to educate rural health professionals on the mental health risks faced by farmers and ranchers and trains them to integrate basic mental health screenings into their primary care practices. The Total Farmer Health campaign helps address the limited mental health services in many rural areas and trains primary care practitioners to better understand and recognize the challenges agricultural producers face and how they might manifest.
Farm Credit also partnered with the Progressive Agriculture Foundation to develop a new curriculum focused on the mental well-being of rural youth ages four to 13, as part the “Ag Safety Days” it hosts across rural America. This curriculum launched in January 2020.
We also partner with American Agri-Women on its Cultivating Resiliency initiative. This includes webinar discussions with farm families who have dealt with mental health issues. In addition are Coffee Chat Sessions, which provide an anonymous online forum for group discussion with folks in other regions experiencing similar situations, led by a trained professional.